Dutch intelligence agencies warn of Russian threat to offshore infrastructure
Intelligence agencies in the Netherlands have warned that Russia appears to be preparing for the disruption and sabotage of critical offshore infrastructure in the Dutch part of the North Sea.
“Dutch vital maritime infrastructure in the North Sea, such as internet cables, gas pipes and windmill farms, can be vulnerable for sabotage,” the Dutch military and general intelligence agencies AIVD and MIVD said in a joint report.
“Russia is secretly charting this infrastructure and is undertaking activities which indicate preparations for disruption and sabotage,” it added.
The agencies announced covert threats by Russia to water and energy supplies in the Netherlands were also conceivable.
There was no immediate response to the agencies’ claims from Russia.
Ukraine inflicting ‘significant’ losses on Russian forces: Zelensky
Ukraine’s military is inflicting “extraordinarily significant” losses on Russian forces near the town of Vuhledar in the eastern Donbas region, President Volodymyr Zelensky said
“The situation is very complicated … We are breaking down the invaders and inflicting extraordinarily significant losses on Russia,” the president stated in his nightly video address.
He referred to several towns in Donbas, where fighting has been focused for months, saying “the more losses Russia suffers there in Donbas – in Bakhmut, Vuhledar, Marinka, Kreminna – the faster we will be able to end this war with Ukraine’s victory”.
Ukraine’s first lady: To fight back, you need to have weapons
First Lady Olena Zelenska has said that Ukraine needs more weapons to fight back Russia’s invasion.
“To fight back, you need to have weapons. Otherwise, you can die. We also need help to restore human capital, infrastructure, houses, schools, kindergartens, because war is not only a front line, it is also an economic crisis and a humanitarian catastrophe,” Zelenska said.
In an interview with South Korean TV company Channel A, the first lady also warned that the war, which began about a year ago, can have a “spillover effect”.
“This is not a gladiatorial fight that can be watched from the stands. The battle can spill over to the ‘stands’ at any moment,” she added.
Zelenska emphasised that Ukraine strives to end the war.
“The war is always too long, even when it lasts one day,” she said, adding, “We are waiting for its end every day. But it also depends on the support of the world.”
Ukraine blames Russia for disruption to UN nuclear watchdog’s work in Zaporizhzhia
Ukraine’s foreign ministry issued a statement Sunday accusing Russia of interfering with the work of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is currently occupied by Russian forces.
The UN watchdog said earlier this month that it has been unable to rotate its team of experts present in the plant in southern Ukraine due to “increased military activity.”
Since September, teams of experts have spent about one month each at the plant, then swapped out with another group, the IAEA explained in a statement. In order to do so, they have to cross the front line into Ukrainian-controlled territory. The organization deemed that too dangerous this month, calling the area surrounding the plant “volatile” and a “combat zone.”
In Ukraine’s statement Sunday, the foreign ministry claimed that Russia continues to surround the plant with military equipment and servicemen. Ukraine accused Russia of violating the norms of international law and undermining nuclear and radiation safety at the plant.
“If Russia is not stopped, its criminal actions at the Ukrainian nuclear facility could lead to a catastrophe, the scale of which is yet to be known by Europe,” the foreign ministry added.
It called on Moscow authorities “to immediately unblock the rotation of IAEA experts and ensure their instant safe movement through the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine to the Zaporizhzhia NPP.”
More background: IAEA chief Rafael Grossi held talks with senior Russian officials in Moscow earlier this month. According to the IAEA, the talks were part of the lengthy efforts to “agree and implement a much-needed nuclear safety and security protection zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).”
Zaporizhzhia, with six reactors, is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. The area, and the nuclear complex, has been under Russian control since the beginning of the war. Grossi and other nuclear experts have been concerned about the threat of a nuclear accident amid shelling around the plant.
Grossi has assured Ukraine the IAEA will never recognize Russia as the owner of the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. Grossi also pledged a continuous presence of the IAEA at all of Ukraine’s nuclear plants.
Macron ‘wasting his time’ in considering dialogue with Russia: Zelensky
Ukraine’s president has said his French counterpart is “wasting his time” after Emmanuel Macron suggested over the weekend that the war would have to be settled by negotiations.
Responding to Emmanuel Macron’s remarks, Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview that any such dialogue would be “useless”.
“In fact, Macron is wasting his time. I have come to the conclusion that we are not able to change the Russian attitude,” he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
“It is up to them to choose or not to cooperate with the community of nations on the basis of mutual respect,” he added.
Polish PM: Biden visit “will reassure all Europe” of the US commitment to Ukraine
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he expects US President Joe Biden’s visit this week to signal “strong confirmation” of the countries’ shared goal of Russian defeat in Ukraine.
Biden “will reassure all Europe that the United States is with us in this fight for freedom and peace,” Morawiecki said in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” program Sunday.
“I expect that there will be very strong confirmation of our resilience and our joint efforts to defeat Russia in Ukraine,” Morawiecki added.
“Instead of saying, as some western European politicians say, that Russia cannot win this war and Ukraine cannot be defeated, we have to change the paradigm, and we have to say, ‘Ukraine must win and Russia must be defeated,'” the prime minister stated.
Biden is set to arrive in Warsaw on Tuesday for the two-day trip, timed around the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The president will meet his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda on Tuesday to discuss Polish aid to Ukraine alongside the “important” logistical role Poland has played in getting aid to Ukraine, the White House announced Friday.
Ukraine is in critical need of ammunition: EU’s top diplomat
The European Union’s top diplomat warned Sunday that Ukraine’s available ammunition is critically low, and Europe needs to solve the shortage quickly.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that allies have been taking up too much time with decisions on battle tanks for Ukraine, while the ammunition situation grew dire.
“Don’t confuse the short-term objectives with the medium terms purposes. Short-term, very short-term, more ammunitions to Ukraine,” Borrell said, during a speech at the Munich Security Conference.
Borrell said the ammunition issue needed to be addressed in “a matter of weeks.”
“The Ukrainians have a lot of applause and not enough ammunitions. That’s the paradox. They need to get less applause and better supplied with arms,” Borrell said, of Kyiv’s global reception.
“The Ukrainians are fighting, paying the highest price with their lives, but this war happens on European soil, affects us and has a global impact around the world, which also affects our security,” he continued.
He added EU has been slow in providing military aid to Ukraine and that future deliveries cannot be done by joint procurements, which he argued are too time-consuming: “We have to use what we have, what the member states have.”
Ukraine is burning through ammunition faster than the US and NATO can produce it.
The US and its allies have already sent nearly $50 billion in aid and equipment to Ukraine’s military over the past year.
Yet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted Monday that the “current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production,” which is putting “our defense industries under strain.”
Much of that strain is being shouldered by American defense contractors. Even as the US embarks on an historic effort to re-arm, there are questions about whether it’ll be enough. As Ukraine prepares for a much-anticipated spring offensive in the coming weeks, the US is still years away from reaching its expected level of increased weapons production.
Chechen leader aligned with Putin says he wants to create his own private military company similar to Wagner
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Sunday that he is “seriously” planning to create his own private military company (PMC), inspired by the Russian mercenary Wagner Group.
“Already now we can confidently say that the Wagner has proved its effectiveness in military terms and has drawn a line under the talk about the need for PMCs,” the Chechen leader said in a Telegram post.
Kadyrov already has a private army often referred to as Kadyrovtsy, who are fighting for Russia in Ukraine.
Kadyrov and Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin have been publicly critical of Russian commanders for military failures in Ukraine.
While the Wagner Group has played a key role in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it has come at a steep cost to human life. The US government estimates Wagner has suffered more than 30,000 casualties, including roughly 9,000 fighters killed, during the conflict.
The group has relied heavily on convicts to fill out its ranks.
“That doesn’t show any signs of abating,” a US National Security Council spokesperson said Friday, though Prigozhin claimed last week that he will no longer recruit from prisons.
“They’re treating their recruits, largely convicts, as basically cannon fodder, throwing them into a literal meat grinder here, inhuman ways without a second thought,” added John Kirby, the NSC official.